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Schools responded by transitioning to the online model – a much more limited experience than in-person learning – but several have faced criticism from students over their lack of willingness to refund the pricey costs of in-person tuition and other fees.
In New York, Columbia, Pace and Long Island Universities have been sued by students who believe they deserve to be reimbursed for the remainder of the school year. As recently as Monday, a freshman at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee filed a class-action lawsuit calling for repayment of tuition and room and board.
“College students across the nation are in whiplash right now, having been told in many instances to make emergency evacuations of their dorms and residence halls as colleges have shut their doors due to COVID-19,” said Steve Berman, who represents the students in the Vanderbilt lawsuit. “As if the shock of sudden campus closure was not enough, students are now left with holding the bill for amenities they will not receive, often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.”
While it’s not yet clear which colleges and universities, if any, will choose to suspend in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester, some, such as Boston University, have acknowledged that they are considering preparing for the worst.
Hundreds of higher education institutions have received federal funding meant to help colleges and students facing financial losses triggered by the pandemic. If the school accepts the funding, they're required to spend at least half on direct grants for students.
Many schools, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton, have turned down the money after facing immense pressure to do so. Meanwhile, others nationwide have received more than tens of million dollars in federal relief funding.
FOX Business created a cost-comparison breakdown for in-person versus virtual learning at the universities that are receiving the most aid from the CARES Act. The information accounts for full-time student tuition costs for the Spring 2020 semester. It does not include additional fees or housing and meal-plan costs.
1. ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
CARES Act aid: $63,533,137
In-state resident: $5,355
Out of state: $14,400
Online: $5,355 for a state resident; $6,360 for a non-state resident
2. PENN STATE
CARES Act aid: $54,994,846
In-state resident: $8,960, but increases as students progress through their college careers
Out of state: $17,492 but increases as students progress
3. RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
CARES Act aid: $54,160,640
In-state resident: Tuition ranges from $6,115 to $7,158 depending on the program
Out of state: $12,487 to $16,897
Online: $7,800 if the student is meeting the full-time minimum of 12 credits. $550 per credit plus $300 fee (per each course, which, per Rutgers is three credits)
4. UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
CARES ACT aid: $51,071,250
In-state resident: $5,954
Out of state: $20,980
Online: In-state resident $5,028; out-of-state: $10,758
5. MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
CARES Act aid: $49,074,737
In-state resident: $1,101.48
Out of state: $5,385.48
Online: Same as on-campus, plus a "distance learning fee" of $180 ($15 per credit)
6. GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY
CARES Act aid: $45,243,852
In-state resident: $3,579.24
Out of state: $11,194.44
Online: $1,620 for full-time student taking 12 credits ($135 per credit)
7. CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE
CARES Act aid: $44,652,328
In-state resident: $3,486
Out of state: $9,426 for students taking full-time minimum of 15 units (in-state tuition cost, plus $396 per unit)
Online: Only appears to offer certain classes online, prices vary individually
8. OHIO STATE
CARES Act aid: $42,885,215
In-state resident: from $3,937 to $5,542, depending on campus
Out of state: $16,030.50
Online: Same as in-state tuition rate, plus a "distance fee" of between $100 and $105 per semester. The online program appears to offer only certain classes.
9. CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LONG BEACH
CARES Act aid: $41,729,439
In-state resident: $2,871
Out of state: $5,643 for students taking full-time minimum of seven units (in-state tuition cost, plus $396 per unit)
Online: Same as above (out-of-state fees apply)
10. CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FULLERTON
CARES Act aid: $41,021,512
In-state resident: $3,466.50
Out of state: $6,238.50 for students taking full-time minimum of seven units (in-state tuition cost, plus $396 per unit)
Online: Price varies between $2,975 and $3,500. Online courses are limited based on the program.
FOX Business' Megan Henney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.